[JURIST] The French government on Friday condemned violent protests against the recently passed First Employment Contract (CPE) [FAQ, in French] labor law. A group of student and union demonstrators clashed with French authorities around the Sorbonne University in Paris Thursday, where 187 protesters were detained for setting minor fires, overturning cars in the street, and throwing objects at police, who used tear gas, rubber pellets and water cannons to stymie the crowds. Arrests across the country numbered close to 300 for Thursday's protests [JURIST report], although the violence died down by evening. A spokesperson reaffirmed the government's support [Reuters report] of the CPE Friday.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website] proposed the controversial CPE, which allows French employers to hire workers under the age of 26 for a conditional two-year period during which they can be fired without cause, to provide jobs for young workers who suffer from staggering unemployment rates. However, critics of the law, including students, union members and left-wing politicos, contend that the law erodes job stability and threatens France's traditionally strong workers' rights. Many believe that increasing voter disapproval of the CPE and Villepin's firm stance [JURIST report] on the law sets a substantial obstacle to Villepin's anticipated candidacy for president. AP has more. Le Monde has local coverage.